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Local biodiversity

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity is the whole variety of life on Earth and includes all species of plants and animals, their genetic variation, habitats and the ecosystems they are part of. It includes not just the rare or the threatened but also the wildlife that is familiar to us.

Biodiversity is important and there are many benefits that we receive from the natural environment including food, fibre, wood and water. In addition, services like pollination, nutrient cycling, soil formation, water purification, flood defence as well as the opportunities for reflection and recreation are all are critical for our wellbeing and survival.

Our local biodiversity

South Gloucestershire is rich in wildlife with many areas of importance, including:

  • The Severn Estuary – internationally important for its bird life, fish, mudflats and saltmarshes.
  • Parts of the Cotswolds – nationally important for their distinctive landscapes for wildlife, including unimproved flower-rich grasslands
  • Lower Woods in Wickwar is one of England’s largest ancient woodlands, with an array of wildlife e.g. dormice and nightingales
  • Traditional agricultural areas which include: hay meadows, species-rich hedgerows and farmland birds and flowers.
  • There are several otters and great crested newts are found in some ponds.

A Biodiversity Action Plan for the UK

At the 1992 ‘Earth Summit’ in Rio, the UK government signed up to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and its response in 1994 was the publication of UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP). The UK BAP described the biological resources of the UK and provided detailed action plans for the conservation and recovery of our most threatened species and habitats.

The UK government also signed up to ‘Count Down 2010’ and joined the global pledge to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010.

A Local Biodiversity Action Plan for South Gloucestershire

With the help of local residents, wildlife enthusiasts and experts, we prepared a Biodiversity Action Plan (2016-26). The plan identifies local priorities and coordinates the action for wildlife, across the district and involves a range of groups and individuals.

A new approach to halting biodiversity loss

In 2011 the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) published a new Natural Environment White Paper on how the Government intends to take forward the challenge to halt biodiversity loss. The UK BAP has been superseded by Biodiversity 2020 England’s new strategy for wildlife which focuses on creating ecological networks and enhancing ecosystem services, and now forms part of the UK’s commitment under the CBD.

The current South Gloucestershire BAP (2006-2015) has reached the end of its lifespan.

To reflect the changes in national policy the revised South Gloucestershire BAP (2016-2026) places greater emphasis on the creation of ecological networks. It is supported by a suite of individual parish and town BAPs to help engage local communities, groups and individuals in conserving and enhancing biodiversity in their area. All documents can be downloaded and accessed from the downloads section of this page.

The South Gloucestershire BAP (2016-2026) should be read in conjunction with the previous BAP (2006-2015), which still contains relevant information on the biodiversity of South Gloucestershire. The species and habitats listed in the (2006-2026) BAP will still remain live as a planning  consideration and will continue to be used in formal planning documents along with the Habitats and Species of Principle Importance in England found in South Gloucestershire in the revised version.

The habitats and species listed below are from the South Gloucestershire BAP (2005-2015). These were chosen by the Biodiversity Partnership to reflect habitats and species that can be easily identified, inspire action and reflect a healthy ecosystem:

Local priority habitats Priority species Local priority species
Arable farmland Bullfinch Adders tongue spearwort
Broadleaf woodland Dormouse Barn owl
Hedges, dry stone walls and field margins Great crested newt Bath asparagus
Old meadows and pastures Hedgehog Bithynian vetch
Orchards Song thrush Glow worm
Ponds, rhines, rivers and water bodies Tassel stonewort Slow worm
Saltmarsh/coastal grazing floodplain White clawed crayfish Wild service tree
Lesser horseshoe bat


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